Monday, June 04, 2007

YEC & Flood Geology

Over this weekend, Steve Hays and I have exchanged some e-mails regarding YEC and flood geology due to some questions Steve was asked by another individual. Since this topic is of great concern to many, we both thought it appropriate to put the points we went over here for everyone to read and comment upon. As such, while this post has my “by-line” it actually contains quite a deal that Steve wrote too.

First, a bit of framework. To define YEC, Steve suggested the following points:

1. The universe is about 6-10K years old.

2. It was made in the span of 6 consecutive calendar days.

3. All the natural kinds originated in the beginning by direct divine
fiat.

4. Microevolution is true, but macroevolution is false.

5. There was no aging, death, disease, extinction, predation, genetic
defects, or parasitism before the Fall.

6. Noah's flood was global in scope.

7. The Flood was largely responsible for the fossil record.

8. The Flood triggered the ice age.
Of these points, Steve affirms 1-4; he affirms 5 with reference to man, but not to the animal kingdom; and is noncommittal on 6-8. I agree with Steve’s assessment of 3-8, but am myself noncommittal on 1 and 2. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I am “agnostic and apathetic” when it comes to the age of the Earth, holding the six-day creation account to be typological/allegorical. This doesn’t mean I rule out a literal six-day timeframe, as it is definitely possible it was a literal six day period (as we currently understand the term “day”) as the foundation of the typology; but it could just as easily have been longer or shorter on my view. I must add, of course, that modern radiometric dating is so full of errors and endless question begging as to make it scientifically impossible to verify the age of the Earth. Thus, although I do not believe the text of Scripture requires us to interpret it as a literal six-day period, science does not require me to view it as anything but a literal six-day period either.

Now there are some problems with both YECists and Darwinists that need to be brought to bear. Many (most?) YEC scientists are not exegetically or Scripturally trained, and therefore often fall into the trap of forcing the text of Scripture to match a specific scientific theory rather than interpreting what the text itself says. This is obviously also a problem for the Darwinist seeking to refute Scripture. In both instances, not understanding what the Scripture actually says leads the scientist to create a false defeater for the Bible. This is most commonly found in Genesis 1-9 and its forced identification with a particular view or scientific construct.

Obviously, this is a problem. For on the one hand, the Bible was not written in scientific jargon. It was written for all people at all times, not for 20th and 21st Century American Scientists. On the other hand, every scientific theory that could account for what we find in Genesis 1-9 is (at best) underdetermined by the evidence. As such, it is simply erroneous to place any particular scientific construction on the Bible. It’s a principled mistake (exegetically/philosophically speaking), and it’s also a tactical mistake (apologetically speaking).

Furthermore, there are far fewer (and less talented) YEC scientists then there are secular scientists. It puts the YEC view at a considerable disadvantage when dealing with the scientific establishment, with its enormous resources so often subsidized by taxpayers (and therefore, by the YEC scientists too!). This is no reason to think they are wrong, of course. In fact, it’s striking how well YECs do despite the tilted, biased playing field.

But before we lump too much criticism on the YEC position from the start, it should also be noted that Darwinists have their own problems. Many times, they are simply far from honest and play rather loose with the “facts” they hold to. For a quick example, Dawkins made the claim:

Far from being missing, the fossil links between modern humans and our ape ancestors now constitute an elegantly continuous series.
This claim, however, has been thoroughly discredited by Gee. We don’t have anything approaching a continuous series in the fossil record. Rather, radical discontinuity is the norm.

In any case, let us now look specifically at flood geology as it relates to the debate on evolution (strictly speaking, Darwinian evolution—I shall herein use the terms synonymously). One of the big problems is that Christians can often become over reliant on flood geology to counter evolution. Flood geology doesn't really serve to "counter" evolution, though, because it doesn't strike at the heart of the theory. This is because in the end the fossil record really isn't relevant to the evolutionist since he will see what he wants to see in the fossil record. As pointed out above, the record doesn't show anything near a continuous series, and yet the evolutionist has no problem "filling in the blanks" in an ad hoc fashion and claiming success. As a result, to defeat Darwinism one doesn't need to engage in flood geology at all; one simply needs to point out at the Darwinist is over-extending and, as such, is completely unscientific.

Part of this over-extension stems from the fact that Darwinists really don't hold their belief in Darwinism due to the fossil record in the first place, so removing the fossil record doesn’t challenge their position. This can be most obviously demonstrated by the fact that Darwin himself didn't have an adequate fossil record, as he himself acknowledged, yet still held to the theory. The hope would be that the future would vindicate him. In my opinion, Darwinism is based on an overriding materialistic philosophy first, and the fossil record is ultimately just "crammed in" to buttress an already unwavering conclusion. Removing the fossil record from the equation doesn't remove the controlling philosophy. The Darwinist can still revert to, "We'll discover more finds in the future that will prove evolution right."

Secondly, proving that there was a flood does not prove the Bible correct anyway. It just proves there was a flood. The evolutionist can incorporate catastrophic worldwide events into his theory too (e.g. the theorized meteor that ended the dinosaurs). So flood geology not only isn't a silver bullet, but is (in discussions with Darwinists) merely a rubber bullet.

Of course, that doesn't mean flood geology isn't a worthwhile endeavor for other reasons, such as seeking to validate the book of Genesis, etc. (although that would again require a proper understanding of Genesis in the first place).

But the Christian actually faces another problem. One of the ironies of flood geology is the degree to which it reads the fossil record in the same way a Darwinian would. It seems to concede that the fossil record looks evolutionary. That the fossil record presents an evolutionary appearance. And we need flood geology to furnish an alternative explanation.

By becoming so reliant on flood geology, we stop asking ourselves whether the fossil record, taken by itself, actually does present an evolutionary appearance. Indeed, we don’t even question whether it is possible in the first place for a Darwinist to demonstrate appearance. After all, according to modern theory, evolution takes very long to occur and making fossils is a statistical long shot. Thus, how is it possible for an evolutionist to actually say what the fossil record "should" look like given the truth of Evolution? On what basis can he make this claim? It cannot be empirically, for there is nothing in the lab that he can do to recreate something that takes millions of years and is completely random. If the idea is not made empirically, then how exactly is it made?

Surrendering these questions, we stop asking ourselves what the fossil record would look like without flood geology. We cease to question the operating assumptions that gave rise to flood geology in the first place. In essence, we let the Darwinists off the hook—allowing them to never explain why the fossil record needs to be “refuted” by Creationists when it isn’t even theirs (the Darwinists) to begin with! Why should we take so much for granted? How much of the fossil record do we really need to explain? We need to assume less and question more.

On a related note, I think that YECs cause unnecessary trouble for themselves by trying to make flood geology explain too much. Explain more than it reasonably can. Once again, this is not an attack on flood geology as a research program. But flood geology would be more plausible if it were less ambitious.

In what sense does the geological column seem to support evolution? It’s based on the principle of faunal succession, which, in turn, presupposes the principle of superposition. The fossil sequence supposedly represents a chronological sequence. What’s lower is older. For example, Ernst Mayr has a chart which presents the following fossil sequence, in ascending chronological order:
First bacteria
First multicellular organisms
First shelled organisms
First fish with jaws
First land plants
First insects
First amphibians
First reptiles
First mammal-like reptiles
First dinosaurs
First mammals
First birds
First placental mammals
Extinction of dinosaurs
First horses
First whales
First apes
Earliest Homo

(What Evolution Is, Basic Books 2001, p. 20).
Actually, if you go from the chart to the body of the text, the sequence, or basis thereof, isn’t that clear or consistent:

Multicellularity originated repeatedly during evolution (ibid. 49).

Birds/mammals, Upper Triassic, 224 million years ago (ibid. 61).

The fossil record of the earliest plants is very poor (ibid. 63).

The fossil record of the earliest vertebrates is rather poor (ibid. 64).

The earliest undisputed bird fossil is Archaeopteryx, found in the upper Jurassic (145 million years ago) (ibid. 65).
Now, why would anyone think that this is evidence for evolution? It appears there are two basic, interrelated reasons:

i) We have an order of ascending complexity

ii) We have a chronological order, over vast stretches of time.

What are we to make of the first line of evidence?

a) In what sense is one organism simpler than another? For example, many animals have more sophisticated sensory organs than we (humans) do. Moreover, many animals have sophisticated organs which we simply lack. Furthermore, there may be a tradeoff between one form of specialization and another. So to say that one organism is more complex than another is a complicated and frequently equivocal comparative judgment.

b) Related to this, is higher complexity better than lower complexity in the first place? Gould, for instance, seemed to disagree in Full House, arguing that in his opinion bacteria were the "best" evolved organisms under Darwinism.

Obviously, when we ask which organism can live in the most extreme environments, the answer is: bacteria. We've found bacteria in Antarctica and bacteria in lava flows. They're hardy little creatures. Since evolution is about the perpetuation of genes, nothing does it better than bacteria do!

As a result, higher-complex species are at a disadvantage. Put a lion in the artic, it'll die. Put a polar bear in the Sahara, it'll die. And considering Global Warming...if all the "complex" animals die off, bacteria still almost certainly won't. So, from an evolutionary standpoint, where we are dealing with Survival of the Fittest, complexity isn't "better" in the least.

Complexity, in fact, seems to create a disadvantage for the species. The more complex a species is, the more it is tied to a specific climate region, reducing its survivability chances. This would lead me to believe that natural selection ought to select against complexity rather than for it, something that is directly contrary to the evolutionist's own claims of what the fossil record says.

c) Why is one organism simpler than another? Well, one obvious reason is size. A big animal will be a multicellular animal. That automatically makes it more complex than a unicellular organism. But size is sometimes related to habitat. A marine or semi-aquatic species can be bigger than a land animal because the water supports its weight.

d) Of course, size doesn’t always correlate with complexity. For instance, it is sometimes possible for "simple DNA commands" to result in a huge organism. Using a mathematical illustration:

2^4 = 16

is "smaller" than

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16

is "smaller" than

2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 16

is "smaller" than

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 16

If all we could see is the answer, we'd say each "organism" in the above is equally complex: 16. But seeing the "code" that went into it makes it a little more complicated. (After all, is it more complex to learn about powers, such as 2^4, than it is to multiply, and is multiplication more complex than addition? Or is it just the case that size = complexity, and therefore 2^4 is less complex than 2 x 2 x 2 x 2?)

Now the reason this is important is because of fossils and DNA. Fossils do not save DNA (except in extremely rare circumstances, such as amber fossils). DNA works like the mathematical formulas above and the organism’s physical structure is the "result." We can only compare “results” of the organisms. It tells us nothing about the formulas used to produce that result.

Simply because one fossil is bigger than another does not mean it is more complex. Indeed, without access to DNA it is impossible to state whether the DNA of one fossil is more complex than another fossil.

e) In sum, you can’t chart a linear progression from simplicity to complexity in the fossil record. At best, we have the trend that bigger = more complex. But that just leaves us with a trend from simplicity to complexity with many exceptions and parallel developments, as well as outright reversals. The famous “horse progression” is one such example. The idea that horses evolved from small, dog-sized organisms into the horse-sized equus of today in a stepwise manner is simply false. For instance, we read:

There was a time when the existing fossils of the horses seemed to indicate a straight-line evolution from small to large, from dog-like to horse-like, from animals with simple grinding teeth to animals with the complicated cusps of the modern horse. It looked straight-line—like the links of a chain. But not for long. As more fossils were uncovered, the chain splayed out into the usual phylogenetic net, and it was all too apparent that evolution had not been in a straight line at all, but that (to consider size only) horses had now grown taller, now shorter with the passage of time.

(Hardin, Garrett. Nature and Man’s Fate. Mentor, NY, 1961)
Thus, the first line of reasoning as to why the fossil record needs to be addressed (“We have an order of ascending complexity”) is shown to be more bluster than substance.
What of the second line then? “We have a chronological order, over vast stretches of time.”

According to the law of superposition, what is lower is earlier. And there’s no particular reason to challenge that basic principle. However, it’s ambiguous in certain key respects:

a) There can be a difference between the time in which the organisms existed, and the time in which they were deposited. Take the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The effect was to layer some remains on top of other remains. But the level they occupy doesn’t represent their original distribution.

b) By itself, the geological column doesn’t tell you how long it took to lay down the column. Dating the column isn’t based on relative sequencing alone. In fact, fossil-bearing rocks are almost always dated by the fossils they carry (thus introducing a bit of circularity to the equation).

For example:

Biostratigraphy is the study of the temporal and spatial distribution of fossil organisms. The limited stratigraphic range of many fossil taxa is used for correlation, typically by means of biozonation schemes (i.e. intervals characterized by a species or group of species). When interpolated with numerical age information derived from radiometric dating, biozones and the divisions of the geological time scale containing biozones (periods, epochs, stages, etc.) can be given chronological values, a process sometimes referred to as biochronology.

As noted above, biostratigraphy and geochronology are fundamental building blocks of many wider-ranging geoscience studies. They provide the common language of geology, which enables the dating and correlation of rocks, whether this is at a global scale, between basins, within a basin or within an oil field. They provide an understanding of the duration and periodicity of geological events (e.g. the rate of sediment accumulation) and the framework to study the process of evolution. Biostratigraphy and geochronology are fundamental aspects of all geological training programs in education.

If biostratigraphy and geochronology can be said to underpin geology, then taxonomy can be said to underpin biostratigraphy. An essential prerequisite of any biostratigraphic study is a good taxonomic understanding of the fossils involved (Cope, 1993; Loydell, 1993; Simmons & Lowe, 1996) Biostratigraphy can only be as good as the taxonomy on which it is built.

The advent of sequence stratigraphy has had a major impetus in furthering biostratigraphic studies (Simmons & Williams, 1992; Armentrout, 1996; Emery & Myers, 1996). This is for two reasons. Firstly, the framework of sequence stratigraphy is time. Essentially this means that sequence stratigraphic studies require a biostratigraphic framework in which to place the organization of sequence boundaries, maximum flooding surfaces and systems tracts.
(BTW, the whole article is worth reading.)

c) The age of rock formations is biased toward a uniformitarian position; however, science is now beginning to lean toward catastrophicism. Thus, despite widely changing climates, ice ages, continents tearing apart, oceans advancing & retreating, etc., the geologic column yields an average of about 0.2 mm of deposit per year, in all the various time periods (e.g. The Cretaceous period lasted 65 million years and is 15 kilometers thick, for an average of 0.23mm/year; the Carboniferous period lasted 65 million years and is 14 kilometers thick, for an average of 0.21mm/year).

Add on top of this the fact that we know there are portions of the Earth today where deposits are more rapid than other places (for instance, river deltas), and further add on the fact that 0.2 mm of deposit per year is simply not enough to make any fossils, and the uniform 0.2mm/year seems to be too much of a good thing. Our weather systems alone are too large and chaotic to allow for such uniformity. Our world is very obviously more catastrophic, swinging between periods of relative stability to massive change.

Indeed, this is found in the organisms discovered in the fossil record themselves according to modern catastrophicist evolutionists. It is part of the reason that Gould proposed punctuated equilibrium. Ironically, though he saw that the fossil organisms were chaotic in this way, he never doubted the ages given for the sediments the fossils were found in, despite the fact that these very ages were dependent upon uniformitarian, not catastrophic, principals! I find it highly unlikely that organisms themselves should demonstrate long periods of stability followed by brief chaos while the rocks they are found in show only uniformitarian progression. This seems to be a contradiction any way you look at it.

d) Another problem is what can be called the paradox of geological time. On the one hand, the geological time-scales are a large part of what makes the fossil sequence seem to present an evolutionary trajectory from “primitive” organisms or “advanced” organisms. That’s the underlying reason that we would equate a simple organism with a primitive organism, and a complex organism with an advanced organism. Remove the timetable, and the aspect of an age-long progression disappears.

On the other hand, the more time you assign to the geological record, the more spacing you place between one fossil find and another. Extant fossils are separated from one another by vast stretches of time. A conjectural string thousands of miles long for every isolated, concrete pearl.

That makes it impossible to infer lineal descent. But if you can’t infer lineal descent, then how can you infer common descent?

Now let’s consider the alternative position. Suppose the earth really is a few thousand years old rather than a few billion years old. Under that assumption, when we see faunal succession in a slice of geological strata, what are we seeing?

Suppose we put this question to the Darwinian. If he thought the geological column was 6000 years old, would he still see the origin and evolution of life unfolding before his eyes? Does he think you could go from no life to microbes to mammals in just 6000 years or so? Of course not!

Which brings me to another point: the scientific evidence for the antiquity of the universe is generally treated as one of the biggest problems for YEC. And it is a problem in the sense that YEC must come up with reasonable counterarguments to blunt the arguments for conventional dating schemes.

However, this cuts both ways. Indeed, it cuts deeper into evolution. For evolutionary theory is quite dependent on geological time-scales. Misdating alone can break the back of evolution if the values are off by several orders of magnitude.

If you go back to Mayr’s chart and strip away the temporal scaffolding, what pattern do you see? Instead of temporal distribution, you can also see a fundamentally spatial distribution. It resembles the biogeography of life at present. At or near the bottom are marine species. Above that are semi-aquatic species. Above that are land animals.

There are a few dislocations, but that’s the general pattern. So is the pattern horizontal through time, or vertical through space (i.e. stratified ecological zones)? Frozen in place because that represents their original placement.

When a Darwinian looks at the fossil record, he mentally inverts it from a vertical, spatial order to a horizontal, temporal order. But why couldn’t it be like a snapshot in space rather than time? A snapshot of the present, rather than the past?

This wouldn’t be to deny it is a record of the past. Rather, the point is that the column resembles the present. More synchronic than diachronic. If you could take a cross-section of biogeography here and now, it would bear a striking resemblance to faunal succession in the fossil record.

Of course, that oversimplifies the pattern. But there are various ways of accounting for the real or apparent discontinuities. And flood geology may be one such way.

41 comments:

  1. Very good post...certainly thoughtful and fair-minded. Since this is a big area of interest for me, hopefully you don't mind a few questions (actually, I tried sending some to Pete in an email, but I think his computer problems are preventing him from checking it)

    You mentioned: "Part of this over-extension stems from the fact that Darwinists really don't hold their belief in Darwinism due to the fossil record in the first place, so removing the fossil record doesn’t challenge their position."

    But don't most evolutionists base their claims on the fossil record? Every attempt to defend evolution that I've seen has relied largely on fossil evidence.

    Furthermore, one of Steve's primary complaints in the past is that evolutionists talk about the fossil record, but they never actually just show you the fossils. Either diagrams are used, or some sort of video or animation is used to show the fossil progression, but the bare fossil record itself is never shown. However, I came across a site that seems to do just that:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html#morphological_intermediates_ex3

    Any thoughts?

    Lastly, One of the things that makes me very skeptical of evolution is the way that reproduction has supposedly developed. Evolution is supposed to work in such a way that organisms have evolved, not only from simple to complex, but (I assume) from less efficient to more efficient - if an organism is to survive, at least.

    Now, going by Mayr's diagram, life would have had to start with single-celled bacteria. Now, single-celled organisms reproduce asexually, by way of cell splitting. This would eventually evolve into male - female reproduction amongst most species of the world. The problems I have are this:

    a. It goes from an efficient form of reproduction (cell-splitting) to a highly inefficient and somewhat unreliable form of reproduction

    b. It seems absurd to suggest that male and female of a given species evolved over thousands of generations to develop exactly compatible reproductive organs and still managed to survive throughout. Have evolutionists attempted to address this at all?

    Sorry if that was on the long side, but any answers and thoughts would be appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Furthermore, one of Steve's primary complaints in the past is that evolutionists talk about the fossil record, but they never actually just show you the fossils. Either diagrams are used, or some sort of video or animation is used to show the fossil progression, but the bare fossil record itself is never shown. However, I came across a site that seems to do just that."

    No, they're still not showing us the fossils in situ, telling us which sites them came from (or their state of preservation), and how they arrange fossils remains from geographically and chronologically diverse strata into a pattern of lineal descent. All you're getting, once again, is a reconstruction minus the process of reconstruction.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Steve,

    Would you claim to have "done your homework" in familiarizing yourself with the scientific literature on this topic - "reconstruction" as you call it, the hypotheses and theories that harmonize stratigraphy, fossils, and the taxonomic features of common descent?

    Or, is such a "reconstruction" non-existent just because you aren't casually aware of it?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mathetes said:
    ---
    But don't most evolutionists base their claims on the fossil record?
    ---

    In a word, no. Evolutionary claims are completely independent of the fossil record. Consider what the fossil record shows and compare that to the evolutionary theory.

    The fossil record shows only organisms that existed at some point in the past. That is it. It says nothing about the relationship between organisms--that is left to extrapolation.

    Evolution, on the other hand, needs a process by which it can function (genetic mutation followed by natural selection). Mutations cannot be demonstrated by fossils since mutations require looking at DNA. Likewise, natural selection cannot be demonstrated by the fossil record either (except when natural selection is taken in its completely irrelevant tautological sense).

    So the theory of evolution is quite independent of the fossil record. The fossil record is only used as a prop. The claim is that the fossil record is what we would expect given evolution. But as I pointed out above, given the inability to recreate this (due to the massive amount of time and the pure randomness of fossil formation), this claim is anything but empirical.

    So at most, all the fossil record can be used for is to say that it is consistent with evolutionary theory. But then, the fossil record is so spotty that it is "consistent" with virtually any theory.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank Steve and Pete, that's very helpful :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Touchstone said:

    Would you claim to have "done your homework" in familiarizing yourself with the scientific literature on this topic - "reconstruction" as you call it, the hypotheses and theories that harmonize stratigraphy, fossils, and the taxonomic features of common descent?

    Hm, what in Touchstone's view would count as "to have 'done your homework' in familiarzing yourself with the scientific literature on this topic" anyway? To have read an article on these hypotheses and theories? An article and a book? Several books? To have completed a relevant undergraduate or higher degree? To have conducted and published research results in a well-known scientific or other academic journal?

    Moreover, I wonder why Touchstone doesn't address Steve's and Peter's specific points and argumentation in the post instead of asking largely peripheral questions?

    Or, is such a "reconstruction" non-existent just because you aren't casually aware of it?

    Why does he include the modifier "casually" in his question? What is its inclusion supposed to imply?

    Also, out of curiosity, would Touchstone claim to be fair-minded on the topic or must he consider everything through the lens of evolution?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Patrick asked:
    ---
    Hm, what in Touchstone's view would count as "to have 'done your homework' in familiarzing yourself with the scientific literature on this topic" anyway? To have read an article on these hypotheses and theories? An article and a book? Several books? To have completed a relevant undergraduate or higher degree? To have conducted and published research results in a well-known scientific or other academic journal?
    ---

    Dude, you're talking about T-Stone. The appropriate answer is:

    To have conducted a trivial Google search.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Patrick,

    I don't get the impression that Steve is remotely familiar with the scientific literature on this topic. If he believes he is, than it may make sense to address some specific papers and articles in the peer-reviewed channel that contradict what Steve is saying. If anything, there's a plethora of competing "reconstructions", and the problem isn't that the "reconstructions" haven't been provided, it's that it's a challenge to determine what the best fit is between the hypotheses and the data.

    But, per Triablogue policy, there just aren't any reconstructions because, well, Hays *says* so, then I know all I need to know about this post, and won't waste my time.

    As for the rest of the post, it's a disaster. There's so much there to undo that it's bewildering to contemplate. I've thought about taking this post one item at a time , and may do that, but will have to posted on my blog, as its *way* to much for the limitations of the combox here. Alternatively, it's so completely ignorant on so many levels (the fossil record is *not* relied upon as evidence for evolution, and thus removing the fossil evidence wouldn't challenge the theory of evolution??? That's just nuts, gentlemen. Clueslessness!) that it hardly seems worth the effort.

    Add to that you wouldn't accept the scientific testimony that's out there as evidence in the first place, no matter how much or how strong. Peter and Steve would post such stuff in the first place if they did.

    So I can anticipate your response: who cares what a bunch of scientists say, anyway? They're mostly atheists, you know, blah, blah, blah.

    It may be worth offering a counter-argument just as something to point to, but this post doesn't really end up anywhere that needs rebutting, so far as I can tell. The "big point" of this seems to be the suggestion that the geologic column should be viewed as a "spatial" record (in terms of 3D space, as in where the water, land and sky are situated!), rather than a temporal record, a recording of what was laid down over time.

    Really, that's an idea that seems to discredit itself. My beefs were with all the wacky other little ideas that were thrown in along the way. Not sure that's worth taking on. But if you or Peter or Steve have one good point here you want to highlight as an important one to consider, I'm always willing to give you my two cents on it.

    -Touchstone

    (if I do work on this for a blog post, it will take a couple of days to appear.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mathetes said:
    ---
    (actually, I tried sending some to Pete in an email, but I think his computer problems are preventing him from checking it)
    ---

    By the way, I forgot to mention this earlier. To reach me via e-mail right now, use my yahoo.com address, which starts petedawg34. If you have trouble converting that to regular e-mail format then I pity you... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Actually, we shouldn't believe Peter or Steve. This blog hasn't been submitted for peer review, after all!

    The shame! The scandal!

    ReplyDelete
  11. T-Stone said:
    ---
    But if you or Peter or Steve have one good point here you want to highlight as an important one to consider, I'm always willing to give you my two cents on it.
    ---

    Frankly, T-Stone, you've got to be the laziest person on Earth. If you can't figure out how to read and respond to pertinent information--indeed, if you in your oh-so-glorious expertise cannot even figure out which points are most important in the post--then why should I care in the least about your opinion of it?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Peter,

    Dude, you're talking about T-Stone. The appropriate answer is:

    To have conducted a trivial Google search.


    It seems Steve hasn't even taken time to do that, which is why I asked. No point in worrying about the literature if the science doesn't matter, anyway right. If Steve just knows, a priori, that no reconstruction has been done, what is needed. He has his "knowledge" in hand, already.

    Here's a link to a paper we dsicussed a couple months ago on an email loop I'm on:

    "Toward a Phylogenetic Classification of Primates Based on DNA Evidence Complemented by Fossil Evidence"

    Goodman M, Porter CA, Czelusniak J, Page SL, Schneider H, Shoshani J, Gunnell G, Groves CP.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=PubMed&cmd=Retrieve&list_uids=9668008&dopt=Citation

    I had to go down to the university library to get access to it - else it costs something like $25-30 for each of these papers as a PDF download. But here's the abstract:

    A highly resolved primate cladogram based on DNA evidence is congruent with extant and fossil osteological evidence. A provisional primate classification based on this cladogram and the time scale provided by fossils and the model of local molecular clocks has all named taxa represent clades and assigns the same taxonomic rank to those clades of roughly equivalent age. Order Primates divides into Strepsirhini and Haplorhini. Strepsirhines divide into Lemuriformes and Loriformes, whereas haplorhines divide into Tarsiiformes and Anthropoidea. Within Anthropoidea when equivalent ranks are used for divisions within Platyrrhini and Catarrhini, Homininae divides into Hylobatini (common and siamang gibbon) and Hominini, and the latter divides into Pongina for Pongo (orangutans) and Hominina for Gorilla and Homo. Homo itself divides into the subgenera H. (Homo) for humans and H. (Pan) for chimpanzees and bonobos. The differences between this provisional age related phylogenetic classification and current primate taxonomies are discussed. Copyright 1998 Academic Press.

    That paper focuses on primates, but provides a solid bit of "reconstruction" in terms of the fossil record, geography, chronology and cladistics.

    That's just one of *thousands* and *thousands* of published articles out there to take hold of. It's quite a challenge even for those who make that field their profession to keep on top of. If you go take a survey of the experts in this field, though -- the men and women who track this stuff as part of their professional duties -- you will find that your (and Steve's) suggestions here would be completely dismissed. If you don't believe me, maybe we can randomly identify a dozen universities and see what kind of verdict this post gets from those who will respond to email requests for review.

    I've done this before, and have been surprised to see how many professors and faculty members will take time to respond in detail to requests like this. Let me know. I think it would be interesting to see what the experts in this field make of your analysis here....

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  13. Peter,

    Frankly, T-Stone, you've got to be the laziest person on Earth. If you can't figure out how to read and respond to pertinent information--indeed, if you in your oh-so-glorious expertise cannot even figure out which points are most important in the post--then why should I care in the least about your opinion of it?

    I don't suppose you *do* care about my opinion on this, or anyone else's, for that matter. How else to explain what you've written?

    This looks like your big "payoff", coming as it does at the end of your post, and worded as it is:

    When a Darwinian looks at the fossil record, he mentally inverts it from a vertical, spatial order to a horizontal, temporal order. But why couldn’t it be like a snapshot in space rather than time? A snapshot of the present, rather than the past?

    This wouldn’t be to deny it is a record of the past. Rather, the point is that the column resembles the present. More synchronic than diachronic. If you could take a cross-section of biogeography here and now, it would bear a striking resemblance to faunal succession in the fossil record.


    Is that what you want us to take away here? The idea that "the point" of geological column is its rendering of an instant ("snapshot") of 3D space, rather than a recording of chronological build up of sediments and other surface items????

    Please confirm. Maybe there's a more important point in there, than the one you put at the end?

    I know you think your "my critics can't read, they're dumb" groove takes you a very long way, but I suggest that a lot of the time, the problem in in the provisioning of the text, not in the consumption.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  14. It has been said that an infinite number of monkeys banging away on an infinite number of keyboards can produce the work of Shakespeare.

    Now we know that one monkey banging away on one keyboard will produce the works of Touchstone.

    In any case...T-Stone, if you happen to have one point in all that "clueslessness" you put in your comments that you want to highlight as an important one to consider, I'm always willing to give you my two cents on it. After I'm done with a trivial Google search or two.

    What do you mean I should just read it and respond to what I think is pertinent? I don't have to read your comments. They have your name on it. Ergo, QED, quid pro quo, flotsum and jetsum.

    This would be a whole lot easier if you just realized that Quantum Mechanics made it possible for a fossil to both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same strata. Indeed, QM is affected by the observers. Most fossil hunters are Darwinists. Ergo, Darwinists are forcing fossils to appear out of nowhere! Yes indeed! This explains why there are so many gaps in the sequence.

    Wait, I almost had a thought there. I'll have to meditate on it. I hear the color of the word. Aaaa-uuuuummmmmm.

    ReplyDelete
  15. By the way, I should also add that when it comes specifically to the fossil record's lack of evidence for Darwinism, neither Steve nor I stated anything substantially different from what Gee has already stated. I suppose he doesn't "count" in T-Stone's book, even though he's an evolutionist.

    ReplyDelete
  16. With respect to this, which I commented on parenthetically, above:

    This is because in the end the fossil record really isn't relevant to the evolutionist since he will see what he wants to see in the fossil record. As pointed out above, the record doesn't show anything near a continuous series, and yet the evolutionist has no problem "filling in the blanks" in an ad hoc fashion and claiming success. As a result, to defeat Darwinism one doesn't need to engage in flood geology at all; one simply needs to point out at the Darwinist is over-extending and, as such, is completely unscientific.

    This is wholly incorrect. Falsifying evolution is trivial to accomplish, if it is indeed false. A reliable human fossil from the Cretaceous strata, situated next an assortment of dinosaur bones would falsify evolution in a single stroke. The theory has been liable to such simple falsifications from the beginning, but hasn't been contradicted by any such evidence in what is going on two centuries of investigation now.

    Also, it might be good to point out that the degree of gradualism that is both explicit and implicit in Darwin's writings on the theory has *not* been borne out. In many cases, there is a level of fine-grained gradual development in populations, but in many cases, the development appears to be 'punctuated'. In *that* sense, Darwin has been left behind many decades ago (which is one of the reasons we have the term "neo-Darwinism" - with the integration of Mendelian genetics, new mechanisms have come into view that weren't foreseen by Darwin who didn't even know about DNA in his day).

    But Darwin's understanding stands; the fossil record is essential as one of the key arbiters of the value of the theory of evolution. The fossil record contains both the practical potential for affirming and falsifying the theory.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  17. Who is this Gee fellow you speak of? The name sounds familiar, but I don't know enough to do a reliable search.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Mathetes said:

    Who is this Gee fellow you speak of? The name sounds familiar, but I don't know enough to do a reliable search.

    Dr. Henry Gee. You might begin with his book, In Search of Deep Time, I believe it's called.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Touchstone said:

    I don't get the impression that Steve is remotely familiar with the scientific literature on this topic. If he believes he is, than it may make sense to address some specific papers and articles in the peer-reviewed channel that contradict what Steve is saying. If anything, there's a plethora of competing "reconstructions", and the problem isn't that the "reconstructions" haven't been provided, it's that it's a challenge to determine what the best fit is between the hypotheses and the data.

    Hi Touchstone,

    1. How do you know your "impression" of Steve's purported lack of familiarity with "the scientific literature on this topic" is veridical given your relativism and subjectivity in accessing truth?

    2. So what, pray tell, is your criteria for someone "to have 'done your homework' in familiarzing [sic] yourself with the scientific literature on this topic"?

    3. You admit that there are "a plethora of competing 'reconstructions,' and the problem isn't that the 'reconstructions' haven't been provided, it's that it's a challenge to determine what the best fit is between the hypotheses and the data." However, the fact that even the experts disagree with one another and have "a plethora of competing 'reconstructions,'" as you concede, not to mention that some experts (like Gee) disagree so fundamentally with other experts, at a minimum would imply the theory of evolution is on a rickety framework -- far more rickety than you're willing to acknowledge. In other words, you concede in one breath what you deny in another. Why the inconsistency in your thinking?

    4. Since, again, you admit that there are "a plethora of competing 'reconstructions,'" why can't Steve and Peter simply have an additional "reconstruction," as you view it? Or would that fall under the purview of academics alone (see #2)?

    5. By your standard, should we listen to your own thoughts on evolution? Or should we dismiss what you may have to say out of hand, too, because there are young and old earth PhDs who would disagree with your position?

    Alternatively, it's so completely ignorant on so many levels (the fossil record is *not* relied upon as evidence for evolution, and thus removing the fossil evidence wouldn't challenge the theory of evolution??? That's just nuts, gentlemen. Clueslessness!) that it hardly seems worth the effort.

    With regard to this point in your dismissal of Steve and Peter's post, they are in fact looking at deeper issues than the mere existence of bone fragments and other fossils, as they've noted here and elsewhere.

    It may be worth offering a counter-argument just as something to point to...

    Yes, please, let's have your argument against their post.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Patrick,


    1. How do you know your "impression" of Steve's purported lack of familiarity with "the scientific literature on this topic" is veridical given your relativism and subjectivity in accessing truth?

    I don't *know* any such thing, which is why I asked. The *appearance* Steve gives is of basic ignorance of even the basics with respect to the scientific theories implicated here, the related evidence and observations, and their interpretations.

    He may be quite up to speed on all of that for all I know, and is just hiding it quite well.

    Maybe it's another one of Peter's clever "traps", eh? Steve will suddenly *pounce*, dazzling me with his textured familiarity with phylogenetic taxonomies and all the related science. Oh, the irony of Touchstone's posts, then!

    2. So what, pray tell, is your criteria for someone "to have 'done your homework' in familiarzing [sic] yourself with the scientific literature on this topic"?

    Able to synopsize the current leading "reconstructions", enumerate the salient evidences that they draw upon, and sketch out the points of disagreement between the leading competitors and what kinds of predictions and new evidence will validate or falsify them.

    Same as for any field of science.

    3. You admit that there are "a plethora of competing 'reconstructions,' and the problem isn't that the 'reconstructions' haven't been provided, it's that it's a challenge to determine what the best fit is between the hypotheses and the data." However, the fact that even the experts disagree with one another and have "a plethora of competing 'reconstructions,'" as you concede, not to mention that some experts (like Gee) disagree so fundamentally with other experts, at a minimum would imply the theory of evolution is on a rickety framework -- far more rickety than you're willing to acknowledge. In other words, you concede in one breath what you deny in another. Why the inconsistency in your thinking?

    Multiple competing theories does *not* imply a shaky framework, Patrick. Competition is *good* for science, and the large number of ideas competing to out-explain, out-predict and out-perform all other against possible falsifications is a sign of the strength of the underlying theories.

    There's a lot we don't know about gravity, and right now there's a lot of competing ideas out there. But that doesn't make "gravity" a ricket theory at all. Science is asymptotic in its approach; solve larger, more fundamental chunks of the phenomenal problems, then refine, then refine some more, then refine some more...

    The competition you're thinking destabilizes evolution is doing precisely the opposite: refining and honing the explanatory and predictive models to even greater levels of accuracy and detail.


    4. Since, again, you admit that there are "a plethora of competing 'reconstructions,'" why can't Steve and Peter simply have an additional "reconstruction," as you view it? Or would that fall under the purview of academics alone (see #2)?


    They can, and they are welcome to submit such, if indeed that's what this is. It's subject to the withering tests of explanatory power, predictive accuracy and fitness to the available evidence just like everything else is. If it's got merit, it'll get attention. Science thrives on revolution.

    I still don't know what the "reconstruction" would be here, however. "Verticalizing" one's view of the geologic strata as a "snapshot" of 3D space, rather than chronological sediment and surface material accumulation???


    5. By your standard, should we listen to your own thoughts on evolution? Or should we dismiss what you may have to say out of hand, too, because there are young and old earth PhDs who would disagree with your position?

    Science works on a consensus basis. "Best fit to the data" is decided by consensus (and has been remarkably unproblematic over a long period of time -- the facts rule!). Every theory that ends up as the champion was at one point an unknown and minority theory, so there's no problem with being a scientific "outsider". Einstein was just such an example for a long time. Eventually, however, your ideas have to perform in terms of predictions, explanations, and falsification, and the *current* status is such that creationist science ranks right up their with "Flat earthism" in terms of scientific performance.

    If these guys are right, the evidence and performance of the theory will lay all competitors to waste -- see Einstein's overturning of classical Newtonian physics, for example. The great thing about science is that one individual can make all the difference, if his insights perform against the natural world.


    Alternatively, it's so completely ignorant on so many levels (the fossil record is *not* relied upon as evidence for evolution, and thus removing the fossil evidence wouldn't challenge the theory of evolution??? That's just nuts, gentlemen. Clueslessness!) that it hardly seems worth the effort.

    With regard to this point in your dismissal of Steve and Peter's post, they are in fact looking at deeper issues than the mere existence of bone fragments and other fossils, as they've noted here and elsewhere.


    They may well be looking at "deeper" issues, but those issues don't make the fossil evidence disappear. It still must be accounted for somehow. As I said above, evolution is trivially falsified by the discovery of fossils that overturn the whole idea -- a human skull from the Pre-Cambrian, for example.

    It may be worth offering a counter-argument just as something to point to...

    Yes, please, let's have your argument against their post.


    As time permits. See my other comments above this one.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  21. T-Stone said:
    ---
    Falsifying evolution is trivial to accomplish
    ---

    Indeed, we've done it many times.

    T-Stone claims:
    ---
    A reliable human fossil from the Cretaceous strata, situated next an assortment of dinosaur bones would falsify evolution in a single stroke. The theory has been liable to such simple falsifications from the beginning, but hasn't been contradicted by any such evidence in what is going on two centuries of investigation now.
    ---

    You forget a couple of things.

    1) That is not the ONLY way to falsify evolution.

    2) You assume the fossil record needs to be falsified. You assume it already demonstrates evolution. You've never demonstrated that, you've only assumed it repeatedly. Did I mentioned you've assumed it? I just want you to be aware of the fact that you've never proven it, just assumed it. Are we clear yet? Do I need to simplify this any for your vast intellect?

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Also, it might be good to point out that the degree of gradualism that is both explicit and implicit in Darwin's writings on the theory has *not* been borne out.
    ---

    You write that as if we didn't know it already. Did you read anything I've written about Gould and punctuated equillibrium?

    By the way, since you admit that gradualism isn't showing up in the fossil record, would you agree that the fossil record is more catastrophic than uniformitarian?

    If so, then why do you continue to insist the rocks themselves are uniformitarian (to come up with your dates for them) instead of likewise catastrophic?

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    But Darwin's understanding stands; the fossil record is essential as one of the key arbiters of the value of the theory of evolution.
    ---

    Except it's not, as I've already demonstrated and which you've continued to ignore.

    Remember, Darwin was never satisified with the fossil record, recognizing that the many gaps were a pitfall to his theory. He assumed (wrongly) that these gaps would all be filled.

    Stephen Jay Gould recognized the problems with the fossil record. Did he abandon evolution? Of course not; he modified it.

    The theory trumps observations of the fossil record. Indeed, the theory interprets the fossil record in the first place. It is not form from the fossil record, it is eisegeted onto the fossil record.

    As I said already, the fossil record is so spotty it can be used to prove many contradictory theories. It isn't proof for evolution. It provides no truth value for evolution. The most an evolutionist can EVER say is that the fossil record is "consistent" with evolution. That's it. Anything stronger than that is a scientific lie.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Multiple competing theories does *not* imply a shaky framework, Patrick. Competition is *good* for science, and the large number of ideas competing to out-explain, out-predict and out-perform all other against possible falsifications is a sign of the strength of the underlying theories.

    >>Yet you have invoked competing "theories" of justification from non-Protestant communions is a justification for doubting the perspicuity of Scripture related to Sola Fide. Ergo, you believe that those of us who say Sola Fide is a fundamental article of the faith are resting our view on a shaky framework.

    You speak with a forked tongue. You operate with two rules of faith, so to speak, one for theology and another for science.
    Notice that on the one hand, your "proof" for the lack of perspicuity of Scripture relative to Sola Fide, is the disagreement with Protestant doctrine that he sees in the Catholic and Orthodox canons and writings prior to the Reformation. (Forgetting for a moment that he glosses right over what many an Early Church Father actually stated). Since you deny the perspicuity of Scripture relative to Sola Fide, it follows you believe the framework for that doctrine is shaky.

    On the other hand, you are adamant about theistic evolution, yet admit that there are multiple competing reconstructions of the fossil records. But if competing reconstructions of fossil records (eg. competing theories) does not mean that the framework for evolutionary theory is shaky, then it should also follow that competing theories about justification, as it were, does not mean that the framework for Sola Fide (the perspicuity of Scripture) is shaky.

    So, for Sola Fide Touchstone says Scripture is not perspicuous because of competing views on justification in the visible church. Ergo, we should not be dogmatically certain about Sola Fide, at least to the point of calling it a fundamental article of the faith.

    For theistic evolution, he is dogmatic that it is true, yet there are competing reconstructions of the fossil record. He then reads Scripture to make room for his TE. He is so certain of it that he says that YEC teaching does harm to the gospel!

    Hmmm

    ReplyDelete
  23. By the way, T-Stone, since you love your defeaters and falsifiers so much and all...

    Demonstrate evolution from the fossil record for me.

    Use whatever fossils you like.

    Use only fossils and demonstrate evolution.

    I tripple dog dare you :-P

    ReplyDelete
  24. Mathetes,

    By the way, regarding Gee you might want to check out this previous post:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/05/evolutionary-mirror-reading.html

    ReplyDelete
  25. What do you guy's (relevent posters) do for a living?

    ReplyDelete
  26. What do you guy's (relevent posters) do for a living?

    I'm a secret Asian, er, I mean agent man.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymous said:

    "What do you guy's (relevent posters) do for a living?"

    What do you guys (relevent commenters) do for a living?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anonymous said:

    "What do you guy's (relevent posters) do for a living?"

    When the T-bloggers aren't otherwise occupied T-blogging, we stage Ocean's Eleven style heists of Las Vegas casinos.

    ReplyDelete
  29. For a living, I typically breathe, eat food, drink water. The basics like that.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Peter,

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Falsifying evolution is trivial to accomplish
    ---

    Indeed, we've done it many times.


    I *meant* scientific falsification, Peter. Saying you don't agree is not what is meant by "falsification" with respect to scientific theories.

    You forget a couple of things.

    1) That is not the ONLY way to falsify evolution.


    Didn't forget that. There are conceivable evidences from DNA analysis, for example, that would brake the theoretical back of evolutionary theory. It's just an obvious, simple way that evolution is liable to falsification -- a mark of a high quality scientific theory.

    2) You assume the fossil record needs to be falsified. You assume it already demonstrates evolution. You've never demonstrated that, you've only assumed it repeatedly. Did I mentioned you've assumed it? I just want you to be aware of the fact that you've never proven it, just assumed it. Are we clear yet? Do I need to simplify this any for your vast intellect?

    I've never assumed or said the fossil record needs to be falsified. The record is the record. What is liable to falsification is the theory that provides an explanation of the record, and makes testable predictions from it. This is basic science, Peter.


    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Also, it might be good to point out that the degree of gradualism that is both explicit and implicit in Darwin's writings on the theory has *not* been borne out.
    ---

    You write that as if we didn't know it already. Did you read anything I've written about Gould and punctuated equillibrium?

    I did see that. And Gould's contributions to this subject would be a very good example of the falsification of a part of Darwin's original theory, and yet support for the crucial points of the theory.


    By the way, since you admit that gradualism isn't showing up in the fossil record, would you agree that the fossil record is more catastrophic than uniformitarian?


    I didn't say that, in fact I think I said just the opposite, above. Gradualism is certainly found in many parts of the fossil record. There are many lineages of Trilobite, for example that are commonly pointed out as a clear example of gradualism in the fossil record (Trilobite and similar creatures make good fossils). Planktonic foraminifera are another example that's commonly held out in the literature.

    The fossil data, as we have it now, indicate a mixed model.

    And in any case, "punctuated" is not all "catastrophic". I think you have your terms mixed up here.


    If so, then why do you continue to insist the rocks themselves are uniformitarian (to come up with your dates for them) instead of likewise catastrophic?


    I wasn't even aware that rock's evolved along the lines of Darwin's ideas. My "uniformitarianism" -- which is nothing more than the reliance on the basic symmetry and uniformity of physical laws over space and time -- relates to the decay rates for isotopes in the rock.


    T-Stone said:
    ---
    But Darwin's understanding stands; the fossil record is essential as one of the key arbiters of the value of the theory of evolution.
    ---

    Except it's not, as I've already demonstrated and which you've continued to ignore.


    Hmmm. I'm rushing to get through this before I have to jump on a plane, but I'll have no trouble doing "trivial Google searches" for experts in the field who very much tie the success or failure of evolution to its congruence with the fossil record. How many would you like?

    Remember, Darwin was never satisified with the fossil record, recognizing that the many gaps were a pitfall to his theory. He assumed (wrongly) that these gaps would all be filled.

    It's not practical *possible* to fill in all the gaps, Peter. We would need to have every generation of every species available to us across all of organic history.

    The brilliance of Darwin's insight was that he was able to intuit what he did on a limited amount of evidence. He put forth a highly ambitious, falsifiable hypothesis based on just a very small amount of evidence, compared to what we have today. His major intuitions have been validated, and fantastically so, by the subsequent evidence made available through investigation.


    Stephen Jay Gould recognized the problems with the fossil record. Did he abandon evolution? Of course not; he modified it.


    Sure, that's how science works. Einstein upgraded us from Newtonian physics to SR/GR models. That's a good thing.

    The theory trumps observations of the fossil record. Indeed, the theory interprets the fossil record in the first place. It is not form from the fossil record, it is eisegeted onto the fossil record.

    As I said, a human skull from the Pre-Cambrian destroys it completely. That prospect militates against what you are saying here -- there's no explaining a fossil like that in the evolutionary model. It would be back to the drawing board.

    As I said already, the fossil record is so spotty it can be used to prove many contradictory theories. It isn't proof for evolution. It provides no truth value for evolution. The most an evolutionist can EVER say is that the fossil record is "consistent" with evolution. That's it. Anything stronger than that is a scientific lie.

    It can't account for a human skull found in the Pre-Cambrian, among other plausible falsifying bits of evidence and observation. Contrary to what you are saying, evolution is extraordinarily risky in its liability to falsification. It has survived those risks for a good long time now.

    Gotta get on a plane. More later.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  31. Touchstone said:

    Maybe it's another one of Peter's clever "traps", eh? Steve will suddenly *pounce*, dazzling me with his textured familiarity with phylogenetic taxonomies and all the related science. Oh, the irony of Touchstone's posts, then!

    Hm, it seems to me that some of the arguments you make against Steve's position are based on the opinion that you don't think Steve knows much about science. Of course, I don't share that opinion. But let's assume for the moment that he doesn't know anymore science than what a Google search might turn up (in other words, now arguably on a level equal to your own scientific knowledge). How would this invalidate his argument in the post above? Are all of his arguments in the post bound up with a requisite level of scientific knowledge?

    And if so, what is the requisite level of scientific knowledge or training necessary for one to attain in order to critique an argument? Do you have this requisite scientific knowledge or training?

    BTW, this strikes me as similar to why some critics of Phillip Johnson reject his arguments. Johnson is a trained lawyer with a keen analytical mind. But he's not a scientist. Some of his critics thus dismiss his arguments out of hand simply because he has no scientific training. It may be logical to dismiss some of his arguments because of this, for instance if they are dependent on certain scientific knowledge which Johnson doesn't have, but is it logical to dismiss all of his arguments on these grounds? I don't necessarily agree with all of Johnson's arguments, but I don't dismiss them simply because I may have more scientific knowledge than he does or whatever.

    [I asked:] 2. So what, pray tell, is your criteria for someone "to have 'done your homework' in familiarzing [sic] yourself with the scientific literature on this topic"?

    [Touchstone replied:] Able to synopsize the current leading "reconstructions", enumerate the salient evidences that they draw upon, and sketch out the points of disagreement between the leading competitors and what kinds of predictions and new evidence will validate or falsify them.


    1. So, basically, you're saying that one has to be able to think systematically and analytically about the relevant topic(s). How is this unique to rendering a scientific judgment?

    2. More to the point, where do you find Steve or Peter lacking according to this criteria? If you don't, on what other grounds do you cast doubt on them in the first place?

    3. And, as Gene points out, you operate with two different standards, one for Christianity and one for evolution. You are willing to accept all sorts of teachings into Christianity -- to the point of questioning whether salvation by faith in Christ alone should even be central to Christianity -- yet you are so close-minded about evolution -- to the point that, no matter what arguments successfully mitigate against it, you declare evolution simply must be right. In other words, it would appear you have more faith in the truth of evolution than you do in the truth of the Bible.

    Multiple competing theories does *not* imply a shaky framework, Patrick. Competition is *good* for science, and the large number of ideas competing to out-explain, out-predict and out-perform all other against possible falsifications is a sign of the strength of the underlying theories.

    If multiple theories exist, does this then necessarily imply that competition is good? How does the latter follow from the former?

    There's a lot we don't know about gravity, and right now there's a lot of competing ideas out there. But that doesn't make "gravity" a ricket theory at all. Science is asymptotic in its approach; solve larger, more fundamental chunks of the phenomenal problems, then refine, then refine some more, then refine some more...

    1. Please explain to us how the two are analogous. For example, is the "evidence" for gravity comparable to the "evidence" for evolution? Can we formulate the theory of evolution in a mathematical equation? Is the theory of evolution subject to controlled, empirical experimentation as the theory of gravity is?

    2. As you've framed it, is the evidence for the theory of evolution in the fossil record asymptotic? Does discovering more fossils bring us closer and closer to the truth of evolution? Please explain.

    They may well be looking at "deeper" issues, but those issues don't make the fossil evidence disappear. It still must be accounted for somehow. As I said above, evolution is trivially falsified by the discovery of fossils that overturn the whole idea -- a human skull from the Pre-Cambrian, for example.

    Are Steve and Peter arguing against the fossil record itself, or are they arguing against why the fossil record is interpreted the way it is interpreted?

    Again, why take the fossil record the way modern evolutionary scientists generally take it? Just because they are scientists? What about those scientists which are just as accomplished yet who disagree with how to interpret the fossil record? Or will you dismiss them as equivalent to flat-earthers? By that measure, why can't others likewise rightly dismiss evolutionists as equivalent to 18th century blood-letting physicians?

    ReplyDelete
  32. T-Stone said:
    ---
    I *meant* scientific falsification, Peter.
    ---

    So did I.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    It's just an obvious, simple way that evolution is liable to falsification -- a mark of a high quality scientific theory.
    ---

    This is laughable. Whether a theory is falsifiable or not has absolutely no bearing on the truth of the theory, nor does falsifiablity equate to a "high quality" theory. You can have a junk theory that's falsifiable, and in fact that has been falsified.

    Furthermore, your claim is akin to saying, "If you found an arrowhead on your front lawn it would falsify the belief that Indians had never been there" while you ignore the teepee that's still standing there. "Nope, it's not falsified. No arrowhead."

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Gradualism is certainly found in many parts of the fossil record. There are many lineages of Trilobite, for example that are commonly pointed out as a clear example of gradualism in the fossil record (Trilobite and similar creatures make good fossils). Planktonic foraminifera are another example that's commonly held out in the literature.
    ---

    All assertion with no proof. Where are these fossils, T-Stone. Show them to me. (I don't mean physically either, so don't be a goober.)

    Show how they demonstrate gradualistic evolution. Because until you do, I'm not going to take your word for it (or anyone else's word) that these things exist. Hey, scientists are supposed to be skeptical, right?

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    And in any case, "punctuated" is not all "catastrophic". I think you have your terms mixed up here.
    ---

    On the contrary, this shows that you are clueless. I used the terms specifically.

    Uniformitarians are the gradualists. Anything that is not uniformitarian relies to some degree on catastrophic changes. That's the whole point; they're not gradual changes, therefore they're catastrophic changes.

    When a species suddenly, magically evolves into another species so quickly it doesn't leave behind ANY evidence of the transition in the fossil bed, this is a catastrophic development. It's not at all uniformitarian, gradualistic, or (in a word) Darwinian.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    I wasn't even aware that rock's evolved along the lines of Darwin's ideas. My "uniformitarianism" -- which is nothing more than the reliance on the basic symmetry and uniformity of physical laws over space and time -- relates to the decay rates for isotopes in the rock.
    ---

    A) The fact that you think catastrophicism is only related to evolution demonstrates your ignorance yet again. It is found in all manners of sciences, including how rocks are formed (explosive volcanic eruptions can hardly be considered "gradualism" instead of "catastrophic"). Indeed, catastrophicism is the very inherent nature of the Chaos Theory in the first place. Little initial changes result in massive, chaotic (i.e. "Catastrophic") outcomes later on.

    B) Surely the great, all-wise T-Stone is aware that you cannot use radiometric dating on sedimentary rocks, which happen to be the only fossil bearing rocks...doesn't he? Surely he is aware that ONLY igneous rocks can be tested, and that volcanic intrusions into sedimentary rock are few and far between. Surely T-Stone is aware that due to this limitation, dating the fossils is a relative procedure, with no way to date fossils in any sort of absolute sense except in extremely rare instances where the fossil just happens to be near a lava flow. Surely, he who would correct the universe and puff himself up as a scientist would know such trivial matters (even if it required another trivial Google search).

    C) The history of the world seen geologically is very chaotic, no? Glaciers have scared the land, oceans have flooded areas only to be uplifted to high mountains, right? Do these things not qualify as "catastrophic" events, and do they not belie the "uniformitarianism" that leaves all sedimentary rocks at roughly 0.2mm/year deposit, across the board, regardless of whether the land is under a glacier, under the sea, or the top of a mountain--it's still that 0.2mm/year? Is it not the case that relying on uniformitarianism can be better explained by the fact that Darwinism originally NEEDED uniformitarian gradualism in order to get off the ground instead of due to what the rocks themselves dictated? Finally, is it not the case that were Stephen Jay Gould's theories to have been adopted from the onset instead of Darwin's theories, no one would have ever considered the need for such uniformitarian laying down of rock strata?

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    As I said, a human skull from the Pre-Cambrian destroys it completely. That prospect militates against what you are saying here -- there's no explaining a fossil like that in the evolutionary model. It would be back to the drawing board.
    ---

    And this misses the point that YOU'VE GOT IT COMPLETELY BACKWARDS HERE. It is not for the Creationist to disprove what has never been proven in the first place! You've never proven evolution from the fossil beds, T-Stone. You must PROVE evolution from the fossil beds before such a position needs to be falsified.

    I don't have to show you a single skull to demonstrate Evolution isn't proven. You haven't bothered to show how the fossil bed can demonstrate evolution in the first place.

    It's not possible for you to do so. I've already explained this earlier, but you choose to ignore it.

    Again, you cannot prove a mechanism for evolution from the fossil bed (natural selection using genetic mutations). All you can prove is that there were organisms that have similar-looking physical structures. But similar-looking physical structures do not prove evolution, for they do not address genetic mutations (something fossils do no preserve in the first place) nor natural selection (which is impossible to "store" in a fossil).

    Again, I challenge you to "defeat" this claim. Prove evolution by using fossils alone. Prove linear descent with genetic mutation followed by natural selection.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Gene,

    >>Yet you have invoked competing "theories" of justification from non-Protestant communions is a justification for doubting the perspicuity of Scripture related to Sola Fide. Ergo, you believe that those of us who say Sola Fide is a fundamental article of the faith are resting our view on a shaky framework.

    Science and theology are fundamentally different with respect to investigation and feedback loops, Gene. When you have a lot of competing ideas around a particular question in science, it isn't the variety of theories alone that provides the advantage (although diversity *is* an asset in that regard), but rather, and more importantly, it's the fact that such a circumstance general indicates a healthy amount of energy and effort being invested in the topic. That has much different implications for science than it does for theology.

    Why? Because they aren't minting any new scriptures, Gene. We are limited to what he have in hand, and have had in hand for more than a millenium. We can't develop a "test" for sola fide, then run the experiment and check the results. That means that your solifidian doctrines can't be falsified empirically any more than competing theological interpretations. So when you end up with an array of plausible interpretations, you reach a point of stasis, an epistemic stalemate. Unless new insights into the existing data (scripture) are mined out and brought to bear, the matter runs out of epistemological potential.

    Now, sola fide is a particularly good example of an hypothesis that can't be empirically tested and thereby affirmed or falsified. We might imagine the value of sending a set of "test subjects" beyond the grave, each equipped with a different soteriology in his/her head, in hopes that they might be able to report back how they fared, and what they learned about the correctness of their interpretations. Alas, no such experiment obtains. We don't have that option. The *real* affirmation or falsification appears to only be available to those who have passed on, out of reach for us while we're here.

    That's not true for all Bible topics, however. If we assume, arguendo, that the Bible intends to convey to us a history that includes a truly global flood, up to at least the mountain tops across the entire globe, then we can imagine a good number of testable implications of such an assertion. At least insofar as we assume God isn't messing with us in creating "false histories" and "false forensics" in the configuration of the world around us.

    In cases like the story of the flood, a number of competing theories may leave the matter unsettled for the moment, but it at least portends the possibility of new input from the natural evidence that may provide important affirmation or falsification of one or more of the competing interpretations. For something like sola fide however, an ever-increasing number of interpretation does *not* have this potential for affirmation/falsification from outside sources. It's not empirically testable, and thus the multiple plausible interpretations, when adopted in such a way that none has a consensus, leaves the issue unsettled, relative to interpretations and canons that *have* reached that consensus.

    It's also important to say that science is nothing more than a war on ignorance and ambiguity. It's a limited enterprise, but it begins with ignorance and ambiguity, and applies observation and logic in such a way as to building increasing clarity about the operation and behavior of the physical world. It depends heavily on the test/observe/falsify feedback loop, though, and thus has a path toward increasing clarity that much of theology does not have, and cannot have, given its metaphysical nature.

    You speak with a forked tongue. You operate with two rules of faith, so to speak, one for theology and another for science. Notice that on the one hand, your "proof" for the lack of perspicuity of Scripture relative to Sola Fide, is the disagreement with Protestant doctrine that he sees in the Catholic and Orthodox canons and writings prior to the Reformation. (Forgetting for a moment that he glosses right over what many an Early Church Father actually stated). Since you deny the perspicuity of Scripture relative to Sola Fide, it follows you believe the framework for that doctrine is shaky.

    When I say that the matter is not as clear as other doctrines, I mean precisely that; it doesn't have the clarity that other doctrines do. That doesn't mean it's not true, however. It just means it's just not as obviously or uncontroversially true as other doctrines. And I don't suppose things are wholly perspicuous, or wholly opaque. Perspecuity is a matter of degree; some doctrines are more clear and obvious than others, but less perspicuous doctrines may still maintain a degree of clarity.

    As for two rules, I don't think the rules are necessarily different, so much as the epistemic prospects are fundamentally different, as I described above. Sola fide however much you may like it or dislike it, is not subject to empirical testing, predictions and falsification, in the way that evolution, or even other Biblical ideas like a global flood are. There's no "perspecuitizer" available for sola fide that I'm aware of. Reformed Christians claim the endorsement of the Holoy Spirit on a personal level for their interpretations. Roman Catholics claim the same for their interpretations. I think both doctrines are plausible, and unlike evolution, gravity, or even flood geology, the competing theories on salvation aren't subject to falsification as a matter of inquiry while we're here.

    On the other hand, you are adamant about theistic evolution, yet admit that there are multiple competing reconstructions of the fossil records. But if competing reconstructions of fossil records (eg. competing theories) does not mean that the framework for evolutionary theory is shaky, then it should also follow that competing theories about justification, as it were, does not mean that the framework for Sola Fide (the perspicuity of Scripture) is shaky.

    I think you misunderstand what the differences are between the competing interpretations of the fossil record are, here. Some formulations suppose a great amount of granularity with respect to 'punctuation' in the development of organism and new species. Others take a more gradualist view of the record. But in either of these cases, the working hypothesis underneath it is that of common ancestry via variation filtered through natural selection. So, your sola fide would roughly map to something like an agressive Punk Eek interpretation of the evidence, and maybe the Roman reading would map to a more gradualist interpretation. They are both plausible, but neither has demonstrated a clear superiority in terms of its performance in explanation of the evidence and accuracy of its predictions.

    Orthodox canons like the Incarnation, on the other hand, would have broad consensus support, derived from a scriptural witness that is decidedly lopsided in its favor. This would map to the more "settled" parts of evolutionary theory -- the idea that populations evolve over time through variation subject to natural selection. The "Punk Eek" theory may one day be proven out, and completely displace all its competitors. For now, though, the matter isn't clear based on what we have in view. And, once again, it's important to remember that this analogy breaks down when it comes to the prospects of new discriminating evidences. In the case of Punk Eek interpretations and its competitors, there's every reason to suppose that new evidence and tests will eventually provide more clarity on the issue; indeed, the genetic analyses that are now becoming practical has the scientific community anticipating strong tests and discriminating results on this issue in the next decade or so. With sola fide and its competitors, the only meaningful results will come after we're dead.

    All of which to say that a "competing field" of plausible interpretations represents ambiguity in the now, but signals hope for resolution in the future through the competition and performance of the competitors. Areas that have a lot of interest in science are often the ones that make headway, unsurprisingly. A bevy of theological interpretations that holds no hope of new evidences or new tests to further discriminate leaves that issue in a state of indefinite ambiguity. The amassed interest in the issue doesn't hold out the prospects for new levels of clarity like it does in the scientific (testable) context.

    So, for Sola Fide Touchstone says Scripture is not perspicuous because of competing views on justification in the visible church. Ergo, we should not be dogmatically certain about Sola Fide, at least to the point of calling it a fundamental article of the faith.

    Perspecuity, again, is a matter of degree, Gene. To be less perspicuous than some other doctrine is not be necessarily opaque, but just less perspicuous. For Protestants, sola fide manifestly *is* a fundamental/creedal part of their faith. The "bar" for Protestants, then is lower, in terms of perspecuity, than the "catholic orthodoxy" criterion. That's their prerogative. Protestants can call "premillenialism" a fundamental article of the faith, if that's what they want to do (I've known some that *have*). In my view, it's true to say that some doctrines, like the teaching of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or the Incarnation are much less controversial as a matter of scriptural interpretation than are other doctrines, like sola fide.


    For theistic evolution, he is dogmatic that it is true, yet there are competing reconstructions of the fossil record. He then reads Scripture to make room for his TE. He is so certain of it that he says that YEC teaching does harm to the gospel!

    Hmmm


    Again, I think this represents a misunderstanding of the "competing reconstructions". My views on evolution as they relate to my theology aren't tied to any particular "reconstruction" here that I'm aware of. All of the contenders that I'm aware of are predicated on the understanding of common descent with variation + natural selection being the fundamental workflow of the development of biological organisms. That means that whichever, if any, of these "reconstructions" wins out, it won't change anything with respect to the insight that man has a common heritage and biological history with all of God's creatures, one that developed over a very long period of time (many millions of years). Whether it's highly punctuated or perfectly gradual matters not in its implications for my theology. I'm quite interested to learn what the real history *was* with respect to these matters, but this is the refinement of the macro parameters, parameters which are much more firmly settled, and which must be addressed by any theology that takes the idea of truth seriously.

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  34. Peter,

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    I *meant* scientific falsification, Peter.
    ---

    So did I.


    OK I missed that, then. Can you please point me to where you provided your scientific falsification of evolution?


    T-Stone said:
    ---
    It's just an obvious, simple way that evolution is liable to falsification -- a mark of a high quality scientific theory.
    ---

    This is laughable. Whether a theory is falsifiable or not has absolutely no bearing on the truth of the theory, nor does falsifiablity equate to a "high quality" theory. You can have a junk theory that's falsifiable, and in fact that has been falsified.


    Here's a blurb from a physics professor named James Schombert at the University of Oregon I've participated with on other forums in the past on this subject:

    The scientific method has four steps:

    * observation/experimentation
    * deduction
    * hypothesis
    * falsification

    Note that there is an emphasis on falsification, not verification. If a theory passes any test then our confidence in the theory is reinforced, but it is never proven correct in a mathematically sense. Thus, a powerful hypothesis is one that is highly vulnerable to falsification and that can be tested in many ways. Science can be separated from pseudo-science by the Principle of Falsification, the concept that ideas must be capable of being proven false in order to be scientifically valid.


    Source is here.

    Note the "falsification" stuff in there? This is basic stuff in philosophy of science, Peter. Ever heard of Karl Popper?

    You *can* have a junk theory that's falsifiable. Happens all the time. That's one reason I say that many YEC theories are false, yet still superior to the arguments of Intelligent Design: many YEC theories are falsifiable, whereas Intelligent Design arguments are not. Being falsifiable makes it "real science", even if it is eventually falsified.

    Ask yourself how "common design", an idea Steve Hays likes to throw out, or your favorite creation theory would be falsified. I'd be interested to hear how those qualify.

    You might want to start with the Wiki entry on the topic?


    Furthermore, your claim is akin to saying, "If you found an arrowhead on your front lawn it would falsify the belief that Indians had never been there" while you ignore the teepee that's still standing there. "Nope, it's not falsified. No arrowhead."


    No, I said there can be *many* ways of falsifying a theory. All it takes is one. If a theory has already been falsified in one way, the fact that it hasn't been falsified in others doesn't redeem it. A theory must avoid *all* falsifications to remain in good standing scientifically.


    T-Stone said:
    ---
    Gradualism is certainly found in many parts of the fossil record. There are many lineages of Trilobite, for example that are commonly pointed out as a clear example of gradualism in the fossil record (Trilobite and similar creatures make good fossils). Planktonic foraminifera are another example that's commonly held out in the literature.
    ---

    All assertion with no proof. Where are these fossils, T-Stone. Show them to me. (I don't mean physically either, so don't be a goober.)


    Here's a good overview of the topic, including the Trilobite progressions:

    http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~bio336/Bio336/Lectures/Lecture23/Overheads.html

    Make sure you look at the section about "Number of ribs" for the Trilobite. That's a reference to

    Just below that section, a reference to Erwin, Anstey [1995]:

    Such examples illustrate that punctuated and gradualist processes can both occur.

    Reviewing 58 such studies, Erwin and Anstey (1995) conclude:

    "Paleontological evidence overwhelmingly supports a view that speciation is sometimes gradual and sometimes punctuated, and that no one mode characterizes this very complicated process."


    Here's the Nature citation for Sheldon[1987] that's being referenced:

    PR Sheldon, Parallel gradualistic evolution of Ordovician trilobites. Nature 330: 561-563, 1987. Rigourous biometric study of the pygidial ribs of 3458 specimens of 8 generic lineages in 7 stratgraphic layers covering about 3 million years. Gradual evolution where at any given time the population was intermediate between the samples before it and after it.

    I haven't done a search, but I don't think that paper is available online. Some of these resources you will have to go and lookup at your local university library.

    Let me know if you want to accuse Sheldon et al of "making up" the fossil data, or some such.

    Show how they demonstrate gradualistic evolution. Because until you do, I'm not going to take your word for it (or anyone else's word) that these things exist. Hey, scientists are supposed to be skeptical, right?

    Sheldon[1987] is an example of this, with Ordovician Trilobites. Why don't you get hold of that article and tell me what you think. The citations in the literature (there are a lot of them) suggest that this is precisely what Sheldon has shown, and it's based on fossil evidence.


    T-Stone said:
    ---
    And in any case, "punctuated" is not all "catastrophic". I think you have your terms mixed up here.
    ---

    On the contrary, this shows that you are clueless. I used the terms specifically.


    OK, you're using terms *specifically* now!

    Uniformitarians are the gradualists. Anything that is not uniformitarian relies to some degree on catastrophic changes. That's the whole point; they're not gradual changes, therefore they're catastrophic changes.

    Peter, I think that's why Gould et al use the term "punctuated" rather than "catastrophic". "Catastrophic" suggests that it's related to a "catastrophe", right? If you are saying that Punk Eek is predicated on the idea of catastrophe as the catalyst for organismal development, I think you need to go read your Gould and Eldrege again.

    When a species suddenly, magically evolves into another species so quickly it doesn't leave behind ANY evidence of the transition in the fossil bed, this is a catastrophic development. It's not at all uniformitarian, gradualistic, or (in a word) Darwinian.

    Magically? How did we get to "magical" evolution here? Now you have me quite confused as to where you are getting your terms. Can you point me at something you've read in the literature that might support this idea.

    Catastrophes are generally pointed to as the cause of *extinction* for species. The extinctions in the wake of a catastrophe (say a large asteroid impacting the earth and wiping out dinosaurs) are thought to create an "ecological vacuum", an environment rich with opportunity for biological diversification and speciation due to the reduce competition for resources, but there's nothing "magical" or directly causal about catastrophes in creating new species that I've encountered in this area.

    "Punctuated" is used to imply a level of "bumpiness" in the rate of development. Catastrophes, according to Gould & Eldredge create mass extinctions which in turn create conditions that are ripe for accelerated emergence and dominance of species that otherwise might have remained subordinate or even gone extinct under the "rule" of the dominant species before the catastrophe.


    T-Stone said:
    ---
    I wasn't even aware that rock's evolved along the lines of Darwin's ideas. My "uniformitarianism" -- which is nothing more than the reliance on the basic symmetry and uniformity of physical laws over space and time -- relates to the decay rates for isotopes in the rock.
    ---

    A) The fact that you think catastrophicism is only related to evolution demonstrates your ignorance yet again. It is found in all manners of sciences, including how rocks are formed (explosive volcanic eruptions can hardly be considered "gradualism" instead of "catastrophic"). Indeed, catastrophicism is the very inherent nature of the Chaos Theory in the first place. Little initial changes result in massive, chaotic (i.e. "Catastrophic") outcomes later on.


    You might be surprised to learn that geologists are well acquainted with idea of volcanoes and other means of rock formation.

    The uniformity I was referring to was the stable rates of decay of isotopes *in* the rocks themselves.

    As for geologic gradualism vs. catastrophism, I believe the scientific consensus is "very long timelines with gradual development occasionally punctuated by catastrophic events". There's good evidence for "supervolcanoes" erupting in places like Yellowstone, and the impact of a huge asteroid (@ Chicxulub) 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs. Oh, and the "big whack" theory of moon formation.

    Those are all catastrophes indeed, and that's not an exhaustive list by any means. But with all that in view, these events remain "punctuation" against a long line of gradual development, in the view of your friendly geologist department at your local university.


    B) Surely the great, all-wise T-Stone is aware that you cannot use radiometric dating on sedimentary rocks, which happen to be the only fossil bearing rocks...doesn't he? Surely he is aware that ONLY igneous rocks can be tested, and that volcanic intrusions into sedimentary rock are few and far between. Surely T-Stone is aware that due to this limitation, dating the fossils is a relative procedure, with no way to date fossils in any sort of absolute sense except in extremely rare instances where the fossil just happens to be near a lava flow. Surely, he who would correct the universe and puff himself up as a scientist would know such trivial matters (even if it required another trivial Google search).


    The TalkOrigins page on dating (includes fossil dating) is a good place to start, and one I've been over and over and over over the course of many years. Maybe we can look at the details of the example described there -- the Bearpaw Formation from Saskatchewan. What problems do you identify in the analysis there, say the placing of "snakebite 1" at ~72Mya?

    C) The history of the world seen geologically is very chaotic, no? Glaciers have scared the land, oceans have flooded areas only to be uplifted to high mountains, right? Do these things not qualify as "catastrophic" events, and do they not belie the "uniformitarianism" that leaves all sedimentary rocks at roughly 0.2mm/year deposit, across the board, regardless of whether the land is under a glacier, under the sea, or the top of a mountain--it's still that 0.2mm/year? Is it not the case that relying on uniformitarianism can be better explained by the fact that Darwinism originally NEEDED uniformitarian gradualism in order to get off the ground instead of due to what the rocks themselves dictated? Finally, is it not the case that were Stephen Jay Gould's theories to have been adopted from the onset instead of Darwin's theories, no one would have ever considered the need for such uniformitarian laying down of rock strata?

    Peter, here's a paragraph from the "Common Misconceptions" section of the Wikipedia entry on Punk Eek:

    Punctuated equilibrium is often confused with George Gaylord Simpson's quantum evolution,[10] Richard Goldschmidt's saltationism,[11] pre-Lyellian catastrophism, and the phenomenon of mass extinction. Punctuated equilibrium is therefore mistakenly thought to oppose the concept of gradualism, when it is actually a form of gradualism, in the ecological sense of biological continuity.[3] This is because even though evolutionary change appears instantaneous between geological sediments, change is still occurring incrementally, with no great change from one generation to the next.

    Given that, and your words above, I think you are maintaining a "common misconception". Punk Eek is a gradualistic interpretation, just a "punctuated" one -- hence the name -- as opposed to "perfectly smooth" interpretation (an interpretation which is not one that has ever been advanced as a requirement as far as I know).

    It also sounds from above that you are supposing catastrophes to be some kind of cause for massive mutation or saltation. In any case, I think you have a much more radical view of what Gould and Eldredge have proposed than is warranted.

    T-Stone said:
    ---
    As I said, a human skull from the Pre-Cambrian destroys it completely. That prospect militates against what you are saying here -- there's no explaining a fossil like that in the evolutionary model. It would be back to the drawing board.
    ---

    And this misses the point that YOU'VE GOT IT COMPLETELY BACKWARDS HERE. It is not for the Creationist to disprove what has never been proven in the first place! You've never proven evolution from the fossil beds, T-Stone. You must PROVE evolution from the fossil beds before such a position needs to be falsified.


    Peter, understand that no one in the science community *cares* what the Creationists want or even saying. They just don't matter scientifically, as they aren't providing anything on scientific terms for the community to work with.

    So you're right, no one's asking creationists to disprove anything. What I'm saying is that the scientific community has generally endorsed the interpretation of the evidences (fossil and otherwise) as beginning from a common starting point and progressing to increasing speciation and diversity over long periods of time via variation and natural selection. The consensus of the experts in the field agree that the idea is powerful in terms of explanatory power, and accurate predictions. Also, importantly, it is falsifiable, liable to being disproven by practical tests and obtainable evidence.

    So, the scientific community has endorsed the theory, and they don't much care what complaints you have, unless they are demonstrable scientifically. Theological investments don't matter, in other words.

    I don't have to show you a single skull to demonstrate Evolution isn't proven. You haven't bothered to show how the fossil bed can demonstrate evolution in the first place.

    What do you want Peter, a 547 page book pasted in the combox here? Do you have any idea how much literature there is available on this subject???

    As I said, no one's asking you to disprove evolution, or produce any human skulls. You are welcome to try, of course, but if you don't, science just marches on. It has reached a verdict on the merits of evolution, and has broadly approved it.

    You have a theological investment in denying evolution. I understand that. I don't expect to convince you. Rather, I'm just pointing to the community of experts who *are* convinced, and suggesting there is a large body of evidence and interlocking observations that provides strong support for the theory.

    You and Steve don't agree. That's fine, it's to be expected.

    It's not possible for you to do so. I've already explained this earlier, but you choose to ignore it.

    No, I get it. Given your theological investments, I think it *is* impossible for you to accept the science here. I really don't think it can be done, so I'm agreeing with you.

    Again, you cannot prove a mechanism for evolution from the fossil bed (natural selection using genetic mutations). All you can prove is that there were organisms that have similar-looking physical structures. But similar-looking physical structures do not prove evolution, for they do not address genetic mutations (something fossils do no preserve in the first place) nor natural selection (which is impossible to "store" in a fossil).

    What do you mean by "prove", here Peter? And how do you account for all the scientists in this discipline that would say that the fossil evidence *does* comport with common descent and in such a way as to be quite risky in its predictions (more primitive organisms lower in the strata, for example -- no reason to suppose this if common descent isn't a factor here).

    Is it just a Satanic conspiracy? Or maybe they're all just dumb, can't read, etc. and are too stubborn to admit your superior intellect?

    Again, I challenge you to "defeat" this claim. Prove evolution by using fossils alone. Prove linear descent with genetic mutation followed by natural selection.

    You'll have to tell me what you mean by "prove", Peter. If you mean "convince", I give up -- your prior commitment to your interpretations of scripture will overwhelm any amount of evidence amassed in front of you. If you mean "show that a community of trained experts in this field are convinced by the evidence", that I think I can do.

    Which is it, or is it something else?

    -Touchstone

    ReplyDelete
  35. Notice that T-Stone has not done what I asked him to do. I asked him to demonstrate evolution from the fossil record. I even specifically stated the exact problem he would face--the fact that the fossil record cannot demonstrate a mechanism for evolution (genetic mutation followed by natural selection).

    T-Stone responds by pointing to several links and Wiki articles (yes, Wiki articles are obviously "scientific", ranking right up there with "trivial Google searches"--where would T-Stone be if he had to do real research?). T-Stone's argument then rests with, "Other scientists say that these fossils demonstrate evolution."

    But all they show is a bunch of similar-looking organisms, which does NOT address how evolution can occur at all. Further, none of this addresses the problems Gee has pointed out when it comes to scientists artificially creating lineages out of fossils.

    The fact is that neither T-Stone, nor any real scientist, can demonstrate that ANY fossil is a descendant of another fossil, and thus artificially claiming they are is a fantasy.

    I will have more later, but thus far T-Stone is merely seeking to avoid answering the issue by copying and pasting large amounts of text and hoping people miss the fact that he's dodging the question.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Touchstone said:

    Science and theology are fundamentally different with respect to investigation and feedback loops, Gene. When you have a lot of competing ideas around a particular question in science, it isn't the variety of theories alone that provides the advantage (although diversity *is* an asset in that regard), but rather, and more importantly, it's the fact that such a circumstance general indicates a healthy amount of energy and effort being invested in the topic. That has much different implications for science than it does for theology.

    Why? Because they aren't minting any new scriptures, Gene. We are limited to what he have in hand, and have had in hand for more than a millenium. We can't develop a "test" for sola fide, then run the experiment and check the results. That means that your solifidian doctrines can't be falsified empirically any more than competing theological interpretations. So when you end up with an array of plausible interpretations, you reach a point of stasis, an epistemic stalemate. Unless new insights into the existing data (scripture) are mined out and brought to bear, the matter runs out of epistemological potential.

    Now, sola fide is a particularly good example of an hypothesis that can't be empirically tested and thereby affirmed or falsified. We might imagine the value of sending a set of "test subjects" beyond the grave, each equipped with a different soteriology in his/her head, in hopes that they might be able to report back how they fared, and what they learned about the correctness of their interpretations. Alas, no such experiment obtains. We don't have that option. The *real* affirmation or falsification appears to only be available to those who have passed on, out of reach for us while we're here.


    1. Basically, Touchstone has taken several hundred words in three paragraphs to say that he doesn't trust the Bible. He doesn't believe that certain truths of the Bible can be ascertained. (However, he does believe the truth of the theory of evolution can be.)

    2. Also, he notes that evidence is always cropping up for science whereas we "aren't minting any new scriptures" -- as if more external evidence is what's needed for us to better understand what the Bible teaches when it teaches us how we are to be saved.

    Besides, what sort of evidence would verify that we are saved by faith in Christ alone for Touchstone? He mentions "new scriptures." Would the Book of Mormon do it for him? How about the Koran? The illuminated manuscripts of the Order of St. Leibowitz?

    This in turn implies that (a) what the Bible teaches isn't clear and (b) what we do have in the Bible isn't sufficient to teach us certain truths such as how we are saved, that is, by faith in Christ alone.

    In other words, Touchstone is verifying the selfsame points Gene originally raised against his position.

    3. At the same time, Touchstone forgets that he is a professing Christian, and in fact a professing evangelical Christian. As such, one would expect him to believe that the Bible speaks authoritatively and perpicuously when it teaches things like we are saved by faith in Christ Jesus alone. But to Touchstone, the Bible apparently is not clear enough on the topic of salvation.

    That's not true for all Bible topics, however. If we assume, arguendo, that the Bible intends to convey to us a history that includes a truly global flood, up to at least the mountain tops across the entire globe, then we can imagine a good number of testable implications of such an assertion. At least insofar as we assume God isn't messing with us in creating "false histories" and "false forensics" in the configuration of the world around us.

    In cases like the story of the flood, a number of competing theories may leave the matter unsettled for the moment, but it at least portends the possibility of new input from the natural evidence that may provide important affirmation or falsification of one or more of the competing interpretations. For something like sola fide however, an ever-increasing number of interpretation does *not* have this potential for affirmation/falsification from outside sources. It's not empirically testable, and thus the multiple plausible interpretations, when adopted in such a way that none has a consensus, leaves the issue unsettled, relative to interpretations and canons that *have* reached that consensus.


    Isn't it odd how Touchstone doesn't think the Bible is clear enough when it talks about salvation, but that it is clear enough when it talks about the flood? Touchstone claims he can't understand what the Bible teaches on the topic of salvation because there are various interpretations. However, he claims he can understand what it teaches about the flood even though there are various interpretations. At least he claims he can understand enough of the various interpretations to be able to accept or reject each interpretation on the basis of how it best matches outside evidence for the flood.

    BTW, I'm quite certain the interpretation of the flood which Touchstone will judge to most accurately match the external evidence is the one which best involves the theory of evolution.

    Of course, if Touchstone can sift through the flood narrative and form his own opinion(s) on it, why can't he do the same for salvation by faith in Christ alone? Well, because there's no such thing as external empirical evidence for sola fide, but there is enough external empirical evidence for the flood!

    In short, for Touchstone the Bible must be verified by external evidence -- whether it be in the form of [his interpretation of] the fossil record, the theory of evolution, church councils, or other means. The Bible can't be trusted to teach on its own authority nor is it apparently clear enough for the common person to understand things like how we can be saved.

    One is perhaps tempted to conclude that all this is but a simplistic dichotomy between faith and science for him; that is, for Touchstone, salvation by faith in Christ alone is a matter of "faith" whereas the theory of evolution and science in general are matters of "fact." If so, we see where Touchstone's true sympathies lie.

    It's also important to say that science is nothing more than a war on ignorance and ambiguity. It's a limited enterprise, but it begins with ignorance and ambiguity, and applies observation and logic in such a way as to building increasing clarity about the operation and behavior of the physical world. It depends heavily on the test/observe/falsify feedback loop, though, and thus has a path toward increasing clarity that much of theology does not have, and cannot have, given its metaphysical nature.

    Oh, by the way, let's not forget Touchstone is a radical skeptic who doesn't believe we can objectively know any truth whatsoever.

    When I say that the matter is not as clear as other doctrines, I mean precisely that; it doesn't have the clarity that other doctrines do. That doesn't mean it's not true, however. It just means it's just not as obviously or uncontroversially true as other doctrines. And I don't suppose things are wholly perspicuous, or wholly opaque. Perspecuity is a matter of degree; some doctrines are more clear and obvious than others, but less perspicuous doctrines may still maintain a degree of clarity.

    First off, is Gene arguing that every doctrine must be 100% clear in order for it to be true?

    Next, if a doctrine is not clear but it is true, then, um...how does he know it's true? At the very least, it must be clear enough to be regarded as true.

    And if salvation by faith in Christ alone is true, then why does Touchstone treat it as if it weren't true? As if it were still something doubtful, something to be questioned, to be prodded and poked, something which has various possible interpretations attached to it?

    As for two rules, I don't think the rules are necessarily different, so much as the epistemic prospects are fundamentally different, as I described above. Sola fide however much you may like it or dislike it, is not subject to empirical testing, predictions and falsification, in the way that evolution, or even other Biblical ideas like a global flood are. There's no "perspecuitizer" available for sola fide that I'm aware of. Reformed Christians claim the endorsement of the Holoy Spirit on a personal level for their interpretations. Roman Catholics claim the same for their interpretations. I think both doctrines are plausible, and unlike evolution, gravity, or even flood geology, the competing theories on salvation aren't subject to falsification as a matter of inquiry while we're here.

    Where does Touchstone get the idea that Reformed Christians "claim the endorsement of the Holoy [sic] Spirit on a personal level for their interpretations"? Even so, do they claim the endorsement of the Holy Spirit and naught else when attempting to interpret the Bible? What about the role of reason and logic, for instance? Oh, wait, that's right, Touchstone doesn't find reason and logic to be reliable guides. (His pontifications on the truthfulness of the theory of evolution notwithstanding.)

    I think you misunderstand what the differences are between the competing interpretations of the fossil record are, here. Some formulations suppose a great amount of granularity with respect to 'punctuation' in the development of organism and new species. Others take a more gradualist view of the record. But in either of these cases, the working hypothesis underneath it is that of common ancestry via variation filtered through natural selection. So, your sola fide would roughly map to something like an agressive Punk Eek interpretation of the evidence, and maybe the Roman reading would map to a more gradualist interpretation. They are both plausible, but neither has demonstrated a clear superiority in terms of its performance in explanation of the evidence and accuracy of its predictions.

    Oh, my! So now Touchstone is (however roughly) comparing salvation by faith in Christ alone to the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution and Roman Catholicism's system of salvation to a gradual theory of evolution! Honestly, I don't even know where to begin. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't say anything, but simply allow Touchstone's woeful ignorance of Protestant and Roman Catholic soteriology as well as a concept such as "analogy" to speak for itself.

    Orthodox canons like the Incarnation, on the other hand, would have broad consensus support, derived from a scriptural witness that is decidedly lopsided in its favor. This would map to the more "settled" parts of evolutionary theory -- the idea that populations evolve over time through variation subject to natural selection.

    Here we go again. Now Touchstone compares the certainty of the Incarnation to the certainty of natural selection in population genetics. On what grounds does he draw the comparison? Is it simply on the grounds that he believes the two are more or less equally certain, which would then push the question back a step or two?

    The "Punk Eek" theory may one day be proven out, and completely displace all its competitors. For now, though, the matter isn't clear based on what we have in view. And, once again, it's important to remember that this analogy breaks down when it comes to the prospects of new discriminating evidences. In the case of Punk Eek interpretations and its competitors, there's every reason to suppose that new evidence and tests will eventually provide more clarity on the issue; indeed, the genetic analyses that are now becoming practical has the scientific community anticipating strong tests and discriminating results on this issue in the next decade or so. With sola fide and its competitors, the only meaningful results will come after we're dead.

    Touchstone continues to treat salvation by faith in Christ alone as a theory awaiting results from further research.

    All of which to say that a "competing field" of plausible interpretations represents ambiguity in the now, but signals hope for resolution in the future through the competition and performance of the competitors. Areas that have a lot of interest in science are often the ones that make headway, unsurprisingly. A bevy of theological interpretations that holds no hope of new evidences or new tests to further discriminate leaves that issue in a state of indefinite ambiguity. The amassed interest in the issue doesn't hold out the prospects for new levels of clarity like it does in the scientific (testable) context.

    Touchstone is more optimistic about the future of the theory of evolution than he is about the future of the Bible.

    Perspecuity, again, is a matter of degree, Gene. To be less perspicuous than some other doctrine is not be necessarily opaque, but just less perspicuous. For Protestants, sola fide manifestly *is* a fundamental/creedal part of their faith. The "bar" for Protestants, then is lower, in terms of perspecuity, than the "catholic orthodoxy" criterion. That's their prerogative. Protestants can call "premillenialism" a fundamental article of the faith, if that's what they want to do (I've known some that *have*). In my view, it's true to say that some doctrines, like the teaching of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or the Incarnation are much less controversial as a matter of scriptural interpretation than are other doctrines, like sola fide.

    Notice how, as a professing evangelical Christian, Touchstone stands in judgment over the Bible rather than allowing it to stand in judgment of him.

    BTW, why does Touchstone bother to continue calling himself an evangelical Christian at this point? Seriously. He's evidenced by his own words how little he has in common with "evangelicals." Why not just call himself an evolutionist and leave it at that? As Peter once observed, I believe, Touchstone is an apostate waiting to happen.

    Plus, evolution is his most prized possession anyway. That's where his treasure is, so to speak. Certainly it's the idea he's most passionate about, far more passionate than he is about the Bible, when it comes right down to it. (And every time it does "come right down to it," it's no surprise which side he picks.) Call the Bible into question -- no worries. But call evolution into question -- and a word avalanche of dissertation-sized proportions is sure to follow.

    Again, I think this represents a misunderstanding of the "competing reconstructions". My views on evolution as they relate to my theology aren't tied to any particular "reconstruction" here that I'm aware of. All of the contenders that I'm aware of are predicated on the understanding of common descent with variation + natural selection being the fundamental workflow of the development of biological organisms. That means that whichever, if any, of these "reconstructions" wins out, it won't change anything with respect to the insight that man has a common heritage and biological history with all of God's creatures, one that developed over a very long period of time (many millions of years). Whether it's highly punctuated or perfectly gradual matters not in its implications for my theology. I'm quite interested to learn what the real history *was* with respect to these matters, but this is the refinement of the macro parameters, parameters which are much more firmly settled, and which must be addressed by any theology that takes the idea of truth seriously.

    And so it goes. Sigh. As mentioned above, Touchstone is more passionate about defending the theory of evolution than he is about defending the Bible. What can we say to this kind of fanatical devotion? Sadly, nothing we say will matter to him.

    ReplyDelete
  37. steve said...
    Anonymous said:

    "What do you guy's (relevent posters) do for a living?"

    What do you guys (relevent commenters) do for a living?

    Oh, I was just wondering what you all did for a living.

    I have a really hard time trying to follow the various arguments set forth on this post from time to time. I'm not a scientist, philosopher, or theologian. I am just an ordinary 39 year old Christian. I'm in law enforcement as an occupation.

    God Bless

    ReplyDelete
  38. hostus twinkius6/05/2007 1:52 PM

    Well Anonymous,

    If I may speak for the T-bloggers (and I'm really being bold here because I'm not their official spokesman) they don't *do* anything for a living. They get let out of their vat every morning and get plugged into some kind of fiber optic do-hickey. Then, around 8:30pm or so, they get dumped back into this bubbling, green liquid by the "Hypno Toad" until the next morning. I know, I don't understand it either...

    ReplyDelete
  39. Oh, I was just wondering what you all did for a living.

    I have a really hard time trying to follow the various arguments set forth on this post from time to time. I'm not a scientist, philosopher, or theologian. I am just an ordinary 39 year old Christian. I'm in law enforcement as an occupation.

    God Bless


    I work in IT.

    ReplyDelete
  40. hostus twinkius said...
    "Well Anonymous,

    If I may speak for the T-bloggers (and I'm really being bold here because I'm not their official spokesman) they don't *do* anything for a living. They get let out of their vat every morning and get plugged into some kind of fiber optic do-hickey. Then, around 8:30pm or so, they get dumped back into this bubbling, green liquid by the "Hypno Toad" until the next morning. I know, I don't understand it either..."


    Quite an uproarious ole chap you are, twinkie!

    ReplyDelete